Map of the approximate location of the Bonaparte wreck

Approximate location of the  Bonaparte wreck in Corsica.


The wreck of the small steamer Bonaparte (37 m) was discovered in 2013 lying in 400 m of water ten nautical miles to the southwest of Capraia, an island off the east coast of Corsica. Archaeologists had to wait until 2014 and the availability of the high-performance equipment of the mega-yacht Octopus to learn more about the site. DRASSM had already recovered several artefacts, including a toilet bowl, a fragment of a porcelain dish, and a lantern made of brass and glass bearing the inscription A Santi, opticien Marseilles. The brass lantern was the key to finding archival evidence of a ship named Bonaparte which went down ‘off the coast of Capraia’ in 1847. She was the first screw-propelled steamship built in 1847 at the La Ciotat yard, commissioned by the Valery & Frère Company of Bastia to work the Marseilles–Bastia–Livorno line. In the night of 14–15 October 1847 she was struck and sunk by the Comte de Paris, a paddle steamer run by the same company, bound for Bastia. The Sémaphore de Marseilles newspaper ran a story in its edition dated 24 October 1847 on the heroic rescue of four Englishwomen by a young Corsican.

Drawing of the Bonaparte
Photograph of a lantern marked with the name of Augustin Santi

The handsome Bonaparte steamship.

© Chambre de commerce de Marseille

The lantern lay on the surface of the wreck and was probably on deck when the ship sank.

© Frédéric Osada/DRASSM

Contemporary newspaper advertisement for the Bonaparte.

© Chambre de commerce de Marseille

Operation manager

Franca Cibecchini/Drassm


Cibecchini (Franca) — Découverte et identification du vapeur Bonaparte. In : Secrets d’épaves : 50 ans d’archéologie sous-marine en Corse. Catalogue d’exposition musée de Bastia, 8 juillet – 23 décembre 2017. Bastia: Musée de Bastia, 2017, p. 82-83 et 155-156.